Guernica- The Art of War- Resources for teaching Guernica


The Art of War 

The Art of War is my unit title for teaching about Guernica. I started this unit a few years ago as a middle school teacher, and now that I am at a high school, it blossomed considerably. Our finale to the Spanish Civil War unit, for which you can access information here, was this mini-unit on Guernica, which includes a PBL action component. After learning about the reasons undergirding this powerful piece of protest art, students had to dig deep and find a cause that was Guernica worthy and start the creative process of bringing awareness to their issue. Guernica was our inspiration or muse for the resultant personal projects (collages are below, but this is only the first part). You can see the planning documents and the first part of the projects below. 

Starting with Guernica

To pique students’ interest in Guernica, I used a few videos on the subject from Youtube, one being this awesome trailer of Guernica to the left. Although students had some familiarity with the topic, due to our unit on the Spanish Civil War unit, they were very interested in this trailer, and of course, they wanted to watch the movie (maybe just to pass the time in class).

Click here for Trailer 

Guernica 3D video 

Prior to the video that is highlighted below, I projected the painting of Guernica and had students jot down what they observed. Students could readily identify the following: 

  • El toro
  • Las personas
  • La luz

We discussed how the painting portrayed the atrocity of Guernica, and students responded accordingly.  I asked them to list and to add an interpretation of each of the items they pointed out.

Side note, the last time I implemented this unit, I had the Guernica Image painting enlarged. I had 15 printed and students gathered around in groups to view, more microscopically, the elements of the painting. This year, I had a different approach. I found this really nifty video on Youtube video that showed the painting three-dimensionally. The room was silent as students were so tuned-in to the slow moving pieces parading across the screen. 

 Short Expository Video about Guernica 

Click here for the video 

We watched this quick video about Guernica in Spanish. It supported the first video, because it give an interpretation of the events.  The video does not have subtitles, but I stopped periodically and asked questions such as: 

1. ¿Quién estuvo en París?  

2. ¿Qué hacía el hombre en París?

3. ¿Cuáles fueron las ciudades bombadeadas? 

4. ¿Qué significa la bombilla? 

After learning about Guernica and the causes that compelled Picasso to denounce the Fascist campaign. Students had to develop their own artistic “campaigns” that were “Guernica worthy.”  Below is the first page of the packet that recapped “el siniestro” and led-in to their project.  

Here is what followed (this was done over two 90- minute classes, I think): 

1. Students read the prompt, which discussed Guernica in Spanish (more comprehensible input).  They then paired up with a partner and thought 5 global issues that Picasso would take on, this is part of the packet. 

2. After thinking and discussing the issues, I gave them this article that I compiled and modified from sources online. It is from the #Niunamenos Campaign, decrying the violence against women in Spain. I listen to Radio National every morning, and this was central to much of the reporting.

3. Students read the article, responded to the questions (the usual). 

4. They were given the prompt below, which was a collage I put together on the issue of #Niunamenos, to give them an example of a powerful issue (this was to weed out topics such as “Call of Duty is the best game ever!). For this collage, students had to choose 6-7 powerful images that would visually depict their topic. The goal was to: 

-Create a visual portrayal of their issue, much like Picasso did

-Conduct preliminary research on their issue

-Present the collage to the teacher first, for an oral interview. 

PBLL Connection 

The collage is one of several assessments and products we are producing.  Students will eventually create a presentation of their issue to create awareness of other learners of the language (some class time was devoted to research, which was carefully scaffolded through the packet information). Stay tuned so your students can check them out!

Discussing collages 

Side note: prior to speaking about their collage, they had a quick write (best idea ever!). For this quick write, they could discuss any part of their project that choose. It was not graded but will give them feedback right in time for the next writing assignment. 

Below are some examples of student collages. Today they had their interview, where they explained their problem, causes and effects and solutions that have been attempted in solving the issue. 

Since they have been working on this for a few classes, I was really impressed with how knowledgeable students were when presenting their problems. Students who struggled with fluency in the beginning of the year had grown leaps and bounds from the structure and constantly revisiting their research. 

You’ll notice that most collages have words around them. I had the research 15 words related to their topic and post around the boards of the collage. When they had their interviews, most incorporated these words naturally into their discourse. Some of the topcis were: 

Racismo ambiental 

Matrimonios forzadas 

La pobreza entre los veteranos 

El blanqueamiento de la comunidad Latinx

(the packet they received walked them through every aspect of the research!)

Gracias for checking out my blog post!

Stay tuned for Las Sombras (sci-fish series).  


The Deeper Purposes of Art: Walking Murals at the Women’s March

The Deeper Purposes of Art: Walking Murals 

It is an undeniable fact that this past weekend’s Women’s March was a powerful and courageous antidote to the incisively degrading political rhetoric that has dominated recent headlines. Due to it being slightly polarizing to some students and families, I had no intention of discussing the March in class, as we are dead in the heat of pre-finals warfare. However, I had a sudden mind shift when I received this picture from my department chair; it’s a great real world connection to our unit on Art. We are in the midst of deconstructing Frida, along with the significance of art and its multifaceted purposes.  This past week we looked at different art movements and the currents moving her work. This picture captures one of the purposes of art and could be placed in a variety of movements. I thought this was good food for thought, and my students ate it up!  

Prior to digging into Frida, we looked at an article I had curated titled “Qué es el arte “(I will share this in a later post). We learned, in several class periods, the different views of art and some of the basic movements; these documents were our guiding principles that we’d revisit with each artist.    

We started off with the question “what is art.” My students had a lot to say. You can see from the whiteboard collage we made in class.  I had students go to the board and write their own definition of art. We read the article, which highlighted quotes from several artists and art critics. You can see the quotes below. 


Monday’s Lesson 

On the Monday following the Women’s March (we are in Chicago), we looked at the poster first and then, described the picture, discussed the impact of the words (they used their art vocabulary, which can be found clicking this link to quizlet.) and lastly   impact of the social context (for aiding interpretation) and then like a math problem, we tried to solve for X. 

Guiding Questions 
1. ¿Qué evento fue y cómo lo sabes? 

2. En tu opinión, ¿es una obra de arte? ¿En qué consiste el arte? 

3. Describe lo que ves en la obra de arte. ¿Cuáles son los colores? ¿Qué impactan tienen? 

4. ¿Qué rol juega el contexto en nuestra interpretación del arte?

5. ¿Cuál cita de arte (de los críticos) mejor explique la función de arte? 

6.  Esta “obra de arte” puede ser un ejemplo del muralismo, ¿por qué  sí o no? 

7. ¿Cuál es el impact que tiene sobre ti?

8. ¿A qué movimiento pertence?

This was our Campanazo (supposedly, a five- minute warm-up) and what a great catalyst for discussion it was!. We discussed the symbolism of the picture and the meaning behind the lady’s mouth being covered. Many of my students, most of the boys, had a hard time relating. When I asked if they felt an impact or connection, most responded “no”. So then, I had really dig deep and flip the question so that gender quality could be neutralized: I followed up with these questions to bring them into the conversation; I started by asking:

Have you ever felt that your voice didn’t matter? 

¿Has sentido alguna vez sin el poder de decidir o sin una voz? 

Have you parents made decisions about you without your input? 

¿Tus padres han tomado decisiones sin involucrar tus ideas o perspectivas? 

Did you have a part in contributing to your final exams (this really got their hands up).

¿Has podido colaborar con los profesores en la creación de los exámenes finales? – this really got them!

After seeing the sea of hands, and the boys finding “their voice” the lesson was, we can all relate to the lady in the painting. We have all felt “silenced” one way or another. I guess my point was “no one is off the hook” and we could all relate to each other’s experience one way or another. 

The second “light bulb” moment was discussing the terms of Muralismo and then looking at the picture. From the article I curated, students had these definitions below of the art movements we studied prior to diving into Frida (I am still editing the article, and will share soon!). The lesson here was looking beyond a fixed definition and thinking more broadly in terms of the “spirit” of the movement or core philosophical values and purpose; looking at the “why” instead of being fixated on the “what.”

Muralismo- un movimiento artístico comenzado en México a principios del siglo XX. Fue creado por un grupo de intelectuales después de la revolución mexicana. Los artistas o muralistas transformaron espacios públicos en lienzos grandes donde se reflejaban sus mensajes politicos y sociales. 

The primary goal was to make them think “outside the canvas” and think more about the “spirit” of a movement and not the letter. Many students clung to the textbook example Muralismo, which centers on it being fixed in public spaces; but this was a public space, and the art was fluid, could it be Muralismo?   After going back and forth we came to the following conclusion: 

The artwork shares various elements of Muralismo, because it: 

-It shares a strong political message- directed to the people

-Transforms (albeit temporarily) a public place (I coined the term Muralismo Andante).

-Although it does not totally comply with technical definition (I am no expert, I dabble here and there in the arts), it does comply philosophically. 

It was a lively debate (and review for an upcoming assessment). We spent about 30 minutes discussing the picture. 

 Click here for the PPT

Click here for the editable version 

Stay tuned for more on Frida: Arte sin limites